It’s probably a safe bet that no one ever rose from the table of an all-you-can-eat lunch or dinner with the expectation of having lost weight. Yet, there are options among the city’s AYCE restaurants where the calories you pack in are more healthful than others. I mentioned one of these, Koko Sushi, in Part 1 of this feature. I will begin this part of the feature with another.
6. Crab House
Crab House, mindful of COVID, has made its seafood buffet “contactless.” In other words, you order off the menu, as in a conventional restaurant, and the food is served to you. You may place as many orders as you like.
The menu is too voluminous to repeat in its entirety. The bountiful assortment includes raw clams and oysters, pan-seared salmon, steamed whole sea bass, pan-seared scallops, shrimp, and lobster. The cost per person is $70. An all-lobster buffet, which includes unlimited steamed lobster, lobster claws with garlic butter, lobster mac & cheese, and more, goes for $105.
Crab House is one of perhaps one AYCE restaurant to offer a contest in which the prize is two of the above-described lobster dinners by making a video of a meal at the restaurant and posting it to TikTok. The last date of submission for videos is Nov. 30. Crab House, 135 E 55th Street (bet. Lexington and Third Aves.), 212-933-0264.
7. 99 Flavor Taste
The main attraction of 99 Flavor Taste is the Chinese hot pot, or more specifically the primitive pleasure of swirling raw meat, seafood, and vegetables in gently simmering broth until cooked. The house offers 6 different broths for dipping, and close to three dozen dippables. Korean barbecue is offered as well, though better versions are available around town. The hot pot sells for 21.99 per person, the barbecue for $25.99. The perpetually indecisive can have both for $30.99. 99 Flavor Taste has four locations, one in Chinatown (285 Grand Street, 646-682-9162), one in Brooklyn (732 61st Street, 718-439-0578, one in Flushing (135-41 37th Avenue, 718-460-9699), and one in Staten Island (201 New Dorp Lane, 718-808-0066).
What is your favorite Sri Lankan restaurant? If you have no answer to that question, then it’s likely you don’t live in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island. The neighborhood has so many restaurants that fit that description that it has become known as “Little Sri Lanka.” One of them, Lakruwana, features a $15.95 all-you-can-eat weekend brunch buffet that is a primer in Sri Lankan cuisine. A highlight of the brunch buffet is lamprais, a savory curry paired with glutinous rice wrapped in a banana leaf and baked. Lakruwana, 668 Bay Street, Staten Island, 347-857-6619.
Becco is a restaurant critics love to hate. Many dislike the place for a reason beyond its control: The restaurant has become a tourist trap. Indeed, if you are going to dine here, be prepared to deal with the hordes of out-of-towners who come here for the vaunted Sinfonia di Paste, a daily-changing trio of all-you-can-eat pastas preceded by either a Caesar salad or an antipasto misto, all for $29.95. In fact, this feature is why I have included Becco in this roundup. Its cost is not only far lower than what you’ll pay at most places along Restaurant Row, where it is located, but the pastas — unevenness of cooking notwithstanding — are interesting and varied. On some nights the choices might include fusilli Bolognese, pumpkin ravioli, and pappardelle in a veal ragu, on others rigatoni all’amatriciana, gnocchi al pesto, and lasagna. And if you can get a table in time to make an 8 o’clock curtain, the walk to the theater should help you work off a few of the calories. Becco, 355 W. 46th Street, 212-397-7597.
10. Hill Country
If it’s Monday night, it must be Hill Country … provided you have a hankering for good, reliably prepared southern barbecue. The excellent brisket is the star of the show, though you won’t go wrong with the pork spare ribs or barbecued chicken. At $32, the dinner out shouldn’t be too hard on your wallet, either. In a singularly unheard of move for New York restaurants, kids 12 and under eat free. Be sure to make reservations. Hill Country, 30 W. 26th Street, 212-255-4544.